Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gardens, glasses and angst

Book News:

Much to my surprise, A Dangerous Man briefly found itself at No 25 in the Amazon UK charts, so that was nice. In addition, The Hit List gained a 5-star review at Goodreads, so many thanks for that, Chris - much appreciated.

On the sales front, there's 25% off all my Untreed Reads titles until the end of the year, so shop early shop often, and start your New Year with a bang. As it were.

Only one meditation this week as I slowly slowly get back into the habit again, and here it is:

Meditation 475
Sometimes the best victory
and the one
you remember

is simply to outlive
the one
you hate.

Life News:

A bit of an up-and-down week really. We've had a lot of nice outings, including visiting The Egyptian Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum, which is well worth it especially if you're into death rituals and bodies, as I am. We also enjoyed seeing the Lewis chessmen, which are wonderful - much smaller than I thought they'd be (silly me, eh) but absolutely exquisite.

We've also visited Wakehurst Place in the fog, where the gardens were interesting but ... um ... foggy and we probably need to go back when we can actually see things. And today, we've had a lovely time at Savill Garden, which I love and which is just as beautiful in winter, with some amazing winter displays and trails, as it is in the summer. The shop's good too and I've finally managed to buy some decent new soapdishes, which I've been looking for for ages, and a nice big happy mug too. So I can aim to be happier in 2011, ho ho.

On the way back we popped into a garden centre to look for candles, and I managed to smash one of the displays and cut myself with glass whilst doing so. Good for me, eh. The staff were lovely though and I didn't have to pay for the chaos I caused, for which I am hugely grateful - it was probably the look of total shock and the blood dripping from the finger that brought out their compassionate side. Anyway, I've calmed down now, thank the Lord, and next time I want to look at anything breakable, I will get K to lift it up for me.

Meanwhile, I've also had another physio session and the frozen shoulder is definitely on the mend, though it makes itself known every now and then. And I've bought a really lovely winter coat in the sales at Debenhams, with which I am hugely happy.

This week's drama has been the Crisis of the Missing Glasses. I attempted to watch the Rolf Harris (I have a soft spot for dear old Rolf) art show last night and realised I couldn't find my tv watching/driving glasses anywhere. Cue frantic searching of the flat, weeping and sobbing (the latter two being mine, naturally). And cue recording of Rolf. I felt really stupid and assumed I'd somehow lost them in Guildford yesterday whilst meandering round the sales. So this morning I spend 45 minutes ringing round shops I can remember being in to see if they had found them. Everyone was really lovely but sadly no glasses. I then did some more weeping and rang the optician's to make an emergency appointment to get replacements. Bearing in mind you never know how long they're going to take and I do take a while choosing new ones anyway, I decided to chance it as it's only a short trip to Godalming and take the car in myself rather than make K wait around while I faffed about. I got in the car and there the buggers were!!! What joy and bliss abounding!!! You can't imagine the relief ... especially as I've just saved myself c£300 replacement costs, double hurrahs and put out the bunting.

Anyway, K has now made me put my phone number in both my reading and my "missing" glasses cases so if they do genuinely go astray at some point then I have a better chance of getting them back. And, when I rang the optician to cancel the appointment, they were hugely pleased that their long-distance customer service skills were as top-notch as ever, gawd bless 'em. How I love a happy ending.

As a result of all that, K and I have also had a discussion about how much of a stressed-out drama queen I'm becoming - though as he freely admits that when he first met me I was stressed-out and hugely unhappy way back then, then perhaps it's not as much of a shock to him as I always assume it is when I get myself in a state now. But I do think I'm getting much worse as I get older - is it my hormones?? Or perhaps the general lack of the sort of hopeful attitude I had twenty years ago that I most definitely don't have now? I'm sure I used to assume in my twenties that things would improve no matter how bad they were, whereas nowadays I just assume they'll probably get worse and I get very angry and frustrated about it. Lordy, what a delight I am to be with indeed ... Anyway, as a result of all this deep thought, I've bought myself an anger management book and a set of bible reading notes to start in January to see if that helps. I should also do more meditation too, I think, as I'm not really very committed to it these days, particularly as my church life went downhill earlier in the year. I'm wondering about going back to the gym too, maybe, as in the old old days beyond recall I used to get rid of a hell of a lot of steam there which helped with the aggression levels, but let's not get too over-enthusiastic. Bloody Rome wasn't built in a bloody day, eh. And I don't want to set myself up for too much personal failure before the year has even begun - there's plenty of time for that yet!

Happy New Year, in any case, to all.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas completed

Life News:

Well then, it's all over for another year and I have to say it's a relief. Only the aftermath to go now, though it's always nice to have holiday time, naturally. That said, Christmas hasn't been too bad this year - K and I had a nice relaxing day together yesterday, and the champagne was grand. I've never met a champagne I didn't like though. Pressies were wonderful and even my mother didn't provide her usual really strange present amongst the goodies, so I suspect she's been swopped for someone else, but Lord knows who. I was also thrilled when K came home after work on Friday bearing a bouquet of Christmas flowers. They look lovely and, believe me, I'm worth it.

The only present he didn't manage to get (and which he, bless him, drove all the way to Bracknell for on Friday) was a book on anger management I mentioned I wanted to get during the week. Well, these waves of pre-menopausal/pre-menstrual rage are getting quite debilitating for us all. There must be a solution somewhere. Though sadly, K didn't manage to get the book as when he finally got to the bookshop the one copy they had was reserved for someone else, dammit. He did admit he wondered briefly about whether he should burst into a fit of rage (so non-K ...) at the counter that he couldn't buy an anger management book but thought, probably wisely, that might well be an irony too far. Plus he was rather nervous about whether he should be getting his wife an anger book for Christmas at all. Sometimes failure can indeed be the best result! Ah well. I shall buy it online at some point.

In the meantime, we have graced the door of the church for the Christmas morning service, which went on rather too long for my liking (didn't they know we had a bottle of champers cooling nicely in the fridge and wanted to set it free??) and I have managed to stave off my potential cold, hurrah.

This morning, we have enjoyed a pleasant, if chilly, walk at Wisley and I'm slobbing this afternoon, big time. Bliss, on both fronts. Though it's very strange about the Wisley shop - it's so posh and lovely, and I leap in with every intention of buying something whenever we go but most times never actually do. It's probably outclassing my tastes, I fear.

Book News:

I am now about three-quarters of the way through the edits to The Gifting but am giving it a couple of days' break at the moment to catch my breath before 2011 comes upon us. Hope to finish going through it in early January.

I was also pleased to see that A Dangerous Man made it up to No 52 in the Amazon US Kindle charts on Christmas Eve, so that was a very nice surprise indeed. Makes Christmas almost worthwhile, don't you know, ho ho ho.

Anyway, here's a poem:

TV Heaven

Sunday nights
are for murder,
something cosy
with a hint of spice
to get your teeth into,

not gory enough to put you off
your cocoa and cake
but with enough blood
and interesting corpses
to give a certain zest
to the cheese and biscuits.

It’s an essential bridge
from the deep deep peace of the weekend
to the frantic hurly-burly
of the working week

so sit down, switch on
and don’t speak.

And the Sunday haiku (the last one of 2010!) is:

The sound of winter:
crackle of ice harmonised
with the grey dove's song.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Is it all over yet?...

Book News:

I've had a lovely and very thoughtful review of A Dangerous Man at Three Dollar Bill Reviews, so many thanks to Kassa for that.

In the meantime, I'm carrying on with the publisher edits for The Gifting and am now nearing the halfway mark, which is nice.

Life News:

I have to say I am now totally fed up with 2010, to be honest, and really wish it was over. Sorry to be the Bringer of Misery (ah, it's my habitual role, you know) but there it is. On the whole, it's not been a great ending to the year and for me it has most definitely outstayed its welcome.

Part of this is because illnesses are greatly abounding - though the frozen shoulder is considerably better now, thanks to the magic skills of my physio, Helen (may her name be praised). I can now raise my arm above my shoulder, hurrah, though moving it backwards is still beyond me. And I must also sing the praises of my TENS pain relief machine and the newly-discovered Deep Heat patches - which really really work, well gosh. However today I am coming down with a cold so am fully expecting snorting, coughing and wheezing to be the accompaniment to our Christmas guinea fowl and rum butter on Saturday (Lordy, but there's a combination for sure). Still, I am taking Lemsips and echinacea in the hope of fending off the inevitable.

The slightly surprising news is that I have discovered that if I have actual physical pain (such as the frozen shoulder), then I feel considerably less depressed. I can quite honestly say that during the first few days of FS I've never been mentally happier. Really, it was a great shock to me. On the other hand, now the FS is on the mend, I feel the customary gloom pouring in, and indeed yesterday evening was a real and serious downer, double groans and pass me the revolver. Back on a double dose of St John's Wort & Passion Flower, and today I feel marginally better, probably because I gave up totally on the day last night at 9pm and simply went to bed. So, the trick is to have a low level of real pain that is evident but not too debilitating and I am Ms. Sunshine herself. Dream on, eh.

Alongside all this, we had our first viewer of the flat this week - they were "very keen" apparently and would "definitely make an offer", according to the estate agent (ho ho, as if), and since then there's been silence.  It now appears they don't like the outside stairs, and the estate agent (in the manner of all estate agents everywhere) is wrong. Now I can't believe I let myself fall even a little for the possibility of hope and I will certainly not be doing that again - it's part of what contributed to the serious meltdown of yesterday.

At the same time, Bellway Homes are getting very pushy indeed about our potential part-exchange situation and have been ringing us up every five minutes asking when they can send round yet another estate agent to give a PX value. Luckily they're on holiday now until next week so will not be pursuing us further for a while, and so I've left a message saying we're happy to sort another visit out in January when everyone's breathed after Christmas & the New Year again. Really, I have no idea what their sudden and frantic hurry is as the house of theirs we like isn't even built yet, for goodness sake. Plus I like to keep our options open just in case something better comes up (which they know) so have no intention of making any sort of final decision until at least the end of January. Ha! From now on I am no longer going to be super-nice (if indeed I ever was) but determined.

However, the overarching feeling about houses at the moment is that I really hate being in the flat and want to get out as soon as I can - like the year itself, our time here has way outstayed its welcome and I wish we'd got out sooner. If it gets to February and we have f**k all coming our way in terms of escape routes and Bellway are still playing silly devils with us, then quite frankly I'm out of here. If we have to sell this one later and live in a hovel until we do, then that is exactly what we'll do. A month ago, I didn't want to spend my birthday here, and now I'm damned if I have to spend Easter in the place. I really hate it and actually I really hate our absentee middle neighbours too. Thank God they don't actually live in the house.

Other delights of the season (ho, b****y ho) are this morning I had to go into Godalming to pay a cheque in to Santander Bank that I owe to my delightful absentee downstairs neighbours (hurrah, at least someone in the house is nice!). I must say Santander in Godalming wins the Grumpiest Staff of the Year award by a long way - they were really nasty to deal with and quite unforgivably rude to the customer in front of me too. Are they on drugs? Or maybe they should be ... Anyway it was an unpleasant experience all round and I'm just hugely glad I don't bank there. They're almost on par with Godalming Lloyds and that's saying something.

On a more positive note (at last!), I have wrapped all K's presents so am ready to fully ignore the Big Day on Saturday in the manner to which we have become accustomed over the last eighteen years. Somebody crack open the ruddy champagne already.

Happy Christmas and see you on the other side!

Anne Brooke

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Notes on a winter week

Brief notes this time due to difficulties with my arm:

1. Talking of which, had a bit of a relapse with the arm over the w/e probably due to trying to do too much on Friday. Have tried to ease it down this weekend.

2. Think my new St John's Wort/Passion Flower pills might be working as I felt confident enough this morning, in spite of health problems, to change my earrings for the first time in a year. Well, gosh. Not sure that will happen again for a while though.

3. Winter has revisited us - so I'm absolutely dreading the journey to work tomorrow already. Hope K can get the car out of the road as I really don't want to struggle with walking and trains.

4. Rather disappointed by Strictly Come Dancing. Pamela should have won - especially as hers was the only showdance worth watching and the only one that was actually a dance. A very disappointing final.

5. A Dangerous Man gained a 5-star review at Goodreads, so many thanks for that, Marsha.

6. I'm struggling on slowly with the edits to The Gifting but I can only do a few pages before my arm starts to give me grief. The last couple of nights have involved some very broken sleep so I am hoping for a full night's sleep tonight, please God.

7. We've put an initial deposit down on a new-build property in Guildford, but we still have to look at part-exchange possibilities and timings, so it's all up in the air at the moment. In the meantime, the flat remains on the open market.

8. The Sunday haiku is:

This winter garden
rises to embrace my skin,
silences the sky.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flash fiction and physio

Book News:

I'm carrying on, slowly, with the edits for The Gifting but I can't do very much very quickly due to the current health issues (see below).

However, keeping me ticking over is the fact that the Fiction at Work flash fiction anthology is now starting to be available although I believe its official launch date is next year. It includes a piece from me about relationships and zoos, Over in Ten. So I hope you enjoy it.

Meanwhile, a couple of my books have become available at Rainbow Ebooks, and you can also currently get discounts on a fair amount of my work at Books On Board too, so that's nice.

Today, at Vulpes Libris, I'm reviewing Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble, which is a fabulous, and fabulously funny, novel and I can thoroughly recommend it.

Life News:

This week, since Sunday, I've had a recurrence of my frozen shoulder problem, so it's not been a particularly pleasant week, health-wise. I spent most of Monday night on the sofa in rather a lot of pain (I even sobbed at one point, ah the shame of it!) and staring at bits of TV I never knew were on at 3am and beyond, though I did manage about 2 hours' sleep in slices, so one must be grateful for small mercies. Mind you, the rerun of Hornblower was nice, and I am probably now addicted to US glamour soap, Gossip Girl. Ah, the hair, the make-up, the dresses, what fun. And thank goodness for my TENS pain relief machine which was strapped to my arm almost throughout, and also for my rediscovery of the anti-inflammatory pills I used two years ago when I last had a frozen shoulder.

On Tuesday, I rediscovered the Co-Codamol pills as well and that's been a real life-saver. They're strong enough to knock a horse out in 30 seconds so do very well for me, hurrah. I also think, Monday apart, it's not been as bad as last time or possibly I'm aware of what it is so don't fiddle about trying to pretend it's not happening. Still, I can drive short distances if I'm careful, which I couldn't before so that's good. And since Monday, sleep hasn't been a problem.

Anyway, I had an appointment with the doctor on Tuesday afternoon and I'm doing some emergency physio sessions with the delightful Helen who saw me through it all last time round. She's a miracle-worker - I had the first session with her today and have two more booked for next week which should see me through to and beyond Christmas, so that's good.

In the midst of all that, we've had the team away day at work which I managed okay, with the help of my trusty machine and pills, and also our office Christmas lunch which was fun. The chocolate parfait with chocolate sticks was to die for, I swear it. And I'm able to use cutlery properly now (hurrah!) as long as I don't have to do too much cutting. Indeed the good side of this whole thing is that I can't do the cleaning or shopping, and am only on light washing up duties. There's always a silver lining, eh ...

Anne Brooke

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Edits, Entertainment and an Honorable Mention

Book News:

I'm very happy to say that I have the first round of edits back for The Gifting from Bluewood Publishing so I am happily getting on with those. I'm now on Page 100 of c470 pages so am doing okay, I think. Onward and upward, as they say.

I've also got a new webpage for the second in the Delaneys series, Entertaining the Delaneys, and this will be published by Amber Allure Press on 20 February 2011. I'm planning a series of four or five to this one, so there's more to come.

Other thrilling news is that The Hit List gained an Honorable Mention is this year's Rainbow Awards for Gay Contemporary Romance Fiction, so it's been really lovely to be in that ... um ... list also (sorry, couldn't resist it!). Not to be outdone, A Dangerous Man gained a very nice 5-star review at Goodreads from CAS (thanks, CAS) who called it "One of the most incredible stories I have read in a long, long time" - I hope in a good way! And Maloney's Law was, briefly, at No 19 in the Amazon UK charts, which was very nice indeed.

This week at Vulpes Libris I've also reviewed Kate Fenton's romantic novel, Picking Up - which I have to say is definitely not one of her best, and I'm a die-hard Kate Fenton fan. My advice is don't start here - but get any of her glorious earlier novels I've mentioned in my review - if you can ...

The meditation for this week is:

Meditation 474
The sharpness of thorn
and the clarity
of cedar

are a bitter memory
on the distant hills
of Lebanon.

The Sunday haiku is:

The soft snow settles
into the corners of life.
It outlasts the thaw.

Life News:

I've had my six-monthly dental appointment (hello, Margaret!) and have to have a filling redone, sob - can't fit it in until January but hey it's always good to have something to look forward to in the post-Christmas zone, eh. Besides, the dentist and her glamorous assistant are always a joy to visit, so what could be nicer, tee hee? And at least I still have all my own teeth - thus far.

Yesterday, K and I spent the day at Mother's doing the early Christmas thing. I think it was okay and neither of us murdered the other (Mother and me, not K and me ...) so that can only be a positive outcome indeed. And, say what you will, but the old matriarch does make a damn good fairy cake. Chocolate too, mmm. Not entirely sure what the ritualistic tapping of the jam pot lid meant though, but you can't have everything. Perhaps she was releasing the Genie of the Jam? Who can tell ... And, while we were out in the family (yikes!) zone, the new tenants moved in to the ground floor flat, so I hope they're settling in well. It will be nice to have someone else in the house other than us, I must say. They have a young child too (gosh!) so that's certainly a new thing. We kept up the House Tradition  of leaving champagne and chocolate biscuits on their front doorstep before we left to see Mother, along with a card of welcome - so I hope they don't think we're too scary. Also, seeing as this means there is another woman in the place for the first time in 17 years plus plus, I left the obligatory note For Her Eyes Only about the Victorian pipes and what that means in real terms in case she may not know that. It surprises me how few people do, but then again I was brought up in the country with no mains sewage so one learnt on one's mother's knee never ever to put anything down the toilet that the Victorians wouldn't have expected to be there. Say no more, eh ... Otherwise, we're all in our Wellington boots down in the cellar having a ... um ... high time, and you don't really want to go there.

This morning, we put in an appearance at church for the first time in ages, so God, and the vicar, were duly startled. I was astonished anyone remembered our names, really. It was also the Family Service, which was scary, but we coped. Though, during the talk, when the speaker asked us all what preparations we were putting in place for Christmas, I'm not sure my answer of "having the family row in order to get it over with" was exactly what the vicar was expecting. I suspect I'm probably banned from the Family service for life now.

Finally, and on a rather worried note, I am getting concerned about my right arm. It's distinctly painful today and I'm having trouble making it do anything useful, like getting dressed, having a bath etc etc. I've taken a pill to stop the pain, and later this afternoon, I think I'll use my pain relief machine - but I'm really really hoping it's not the onset of another bout of frozen shoulder. I can't bear that, as it was agonising enough the first time round! And I don't have time for it either. If it's any worse tomorrow though, maybe I should go to the doctor. I'll see.

Anne Brooke

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The traumas of travel

Life News:

Getting back to work wasn't as bad as I'd feared on Monday, although I had a terrible headache in the afternoon and had to come home early just in order to go to sleep to try to get rid of the thing. Yes, I did take the usual pills but sadly they didn't work. Felt better on Tuesday though, but I made sure I got out for a walk at lunchtime which helped, and I kept working at the computer without my glasses now and again as I felt it staved off any return of the headache moment. Might need to get my eyes retested, as it does seem to be the work screen, or maybe the overhead lights, that's setting it off at the moment - as the home computer is fine.

Have switched my working days this week as I've attended the funeral for the father of one of the University Janes today, which was sad but expected as he really hadn't been well. Had a very difficult journey there and back though - I got terribly confused and ended up on the M4 instead of the M40 on the way there, so panicked and got hugely stressed and headed to Heathrow as I thought I ought to be able to pick up the M25 again there. Which I did do, but the traffic was horrendous and I nearly had an accident twice. Lordy. The funeral was difficult too, as these things are, but Jane gave a very good eulogy, which impressed me as I don't think I'd ever be able to do that. Ever. It brought back memories of my own father's funeral too - odd how the death of friend's mothers, though sad of course, doesn't quite hit home in the way the death of the older men does. Also there were people there whom I haven't seen for ages and who, to be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to. But it was okay in the end - we chatted a bit and then I left, as I didn't want to stay for the post-funeral lunch. God, but I'm never sure what those things are for but, anyway, I had to get back. Not sure either how I feel about said people - it feels like history now, to be honest, which I suppose is healthy, rather than being stressed out about it all. Still, the end of friendships can be a difficult stage to negotiate - someone ought to write a book about it.

On the way home, I managed to get lost too - my brain was a total blank and I was finding it tricky to keep (a) alert and (b) awake. Never a good way to be driving really. I found myself in a road I didn't recognise at all, saw a Dog Rescue Centre (of all places!) and stopped to ask them directions. Hell, they must be used to stressed-out strays flocking at their doors, as they were super-nice and gave me directions to get back to the M25 which even I could understand, thank the Lord. And I don't even like dogs.

Today, we've also put the house back on with another estate agent, even though we're still considering the part-exchange and new house option - on the grounds that it does no harm to keep all the options open. I don't feel very confident about any of it though, but didn't have the energy to do anything beyond just agree with most of what the new agent was saying - though I'm proud of the fact that I kicked him into touch about price - we've already dropped it three times and it's now on at £209,995, and I'm not going any lower until we've at least seen the New Year in. Besides, the other agent we had in to look at the part-exchange price quoted us £225,000 so I still think it's a snip.

Book News:

I've sent back the completed edits for Brady's Choice to the publisher, and that's due out on 23 January. I'm quite pleased with it as it's more meditative and grown-up in some ways than my other gay short stories. We'll have to see if readers agree though.

The Hit List was at No 47 in the Amazon UK Kindle charts during the week and can also be purchased directly from the publisher at a 25% discount during December.

Meanwhile, A Dangerous Man found itself at No 29 in the Amazon UK charts and at No 78 in the Amazon US Kindle charts, so thank you to those who are buying it. It was also, much to my delight, showcased at Erotic Horizon Books on Monday, so thank you, EH, for that. Much appreciated.

This week's meditations so far are:

Meditation 471
Some courage
is never seen

but vanishes into air
like the first mist
of morning,

so fragile
you hardly know it.

Meditation 472
Our lives
are a single arrow

shot through clear air
framing bright sky
for a heartbeat

and landing silent
upon the waiting earth.

Meditation 473
The secret
at the heart
of everything

is simply the need
never to be

Anne Brooke

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Houses, haikus and health

Life News:

The good news is I'm feeling a lot better, hurrah, and the snow is vanishing, double hurrah. I've even actually been out of the house today for the first time since Tuesday, so I'm definitely on the mend. Less danger of slipping too.

All this weather we've been having plus illness has meant K and I didn't get to see the one-woman play about Jane Austen's Women in Guildford on Friday, which might have been fun so I'm sorry we missed it. Plus we've had to put our Christmas visit to Mother off until next Saturday, which is what I thought would happen.

In the meantime, we've had another estate agent round to give us a quote for potential part-exchange, and we've spent today doing a thorough site visit both of the development in Guildford and the one in Chobham Lakes, just to see how we feel about them, when compared. The Chobham Lakes one is certainly nice but it might be just too executive and be striving for too much of a community feel for us. On the plus side, it's definitely quiet and if we go there I'll be able to use my car to get to work, though the drive will be longer. On the other hand, the Guildford development has an extra bedroom on the third floor which I love the sound of (it's not been built yet as it's very new!), plus a nice looking conservatory, although it's noisier as it's nearer the road and I'll have to go to work by bus as it's too near the University to get a car pass. Ah, decisions, decisions. At the moment, the Guildford development is winning by a nose, but we'll see what we feel like tomorrow - our attitudes change by the hour ...

Book News:

I'm happy to say that the second in my Delaneys series, Entertaining the Delaneys, has been accepted for publication by Amber Allure Press on 20 February 2011. I've got ideas for two more stories as well so it looks like I'll get at least a set of four out of good old Liam, bless him.

A Dangerous Man is now available in Kindle versions at Amazon UK and Amazon US, so lots more shopping opportunities to enjoy. And Thorn in the Flesh is being offered at a 26% discount plus free worldwide delivery at The Book Depository, so ideal winter reading for all.

The Sunday haiku is particularly relevant as the father of a friend of mine died this week, I'm sorry to say:

Under quiet snow
our old men are vanishing,
taken by winter.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Not the best holiday week ever ...

Life News:

Well, this is our holiday week and so far it's definitely not been great. Poor K had to go into work all day Saturday, and then on Monday had to do a fair amount of work remotely. Plus on Tuesday, he had to pop into the office for an hour or so, but thankfully it wasn't too long. Not to mention the fact that I've had a horrible and developing cold since Monday, so haven't been able to do that much anyway apart from watch bad TV and attempt to solve crossword puzzles, groan, moan. Though I did go in with him on Tuesday, so K dropped me off in Woking while he went to the office. I don't mean to be mean (as it were), but Woking isn't the most exciting place in the world, and definitely doesn't do itself justice when it's starting to snow seriously (I hate snow!) and I'm not feeling well.

So I wandered round in the indoor shopping arcade for a bit and had a cappuccino and a sit down in the theatre cafe. Which was quite nice and relaxing really. When K finished work, we decided to pop into The Lightbox Gallery as we've been meaning to go for a while and have never got round to it. It probably wasn't the best time to go, however, as one of the exhibition halls was shut and they were having a big focus on (a) childhood illustrations and (b) the history of Woking. Lordy. Neither K nor I are great fans of children though the illustrations were pleasant enough. But, quite honestly, the history of Woking can be summed up with the words: Railway; Mental Hospital; Cemetery. And that's about it really, though they're charmingly keen about it. It could have done with a mention of the H G Wells connection, but surprisingly was silent on the matter ... Ah well.

Today, we were planning to go up to London to see the Egyptian Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum but the snow and ill health have definitely stopped play. Plus we were planning to do our site visit of the housing development in Guildford, but that's likely to be put off from tomorrow again, I suspect. And goodness knows whether we'll be able to visit Mother in Essex on Saturday. Just as K and I have spent some time wrapping their presents up and doing our Christmas cards as well. Typical!

Mind you, we have, during our holiday week (ho ho), managed to do battle with various companies. We have sent a strongly-worded letter of complaint to Mann Countrywide, and I've also had to telephone Page & Moy travel company no less than seven times since Monday simply in order to get them to send us the correct discounted invoice they promised. Lordy, but they have made it all hugely complicated, though I am at least proud that I managed to keep my temper and not shout or sob, but that's probably because I'm not well and don't have the energy. I doubt it's to do with anything as spiritual as a growing maturity, God forbid. Anyway, it's interesting that (a) I asked to speak to the Administration Manager, Lynne Carter, four times in clear language but each time they refused to put me through - the last time because she was "too busy to speak to me". What rudeness! I am also way too busy to want to speak to her once, let alone seven times, yet I somehow make time in my schedule to do so ...; and (b) when they finally deigned to send the discounted invoice they had actually added the 10% discount instead of subtracting it, the fools, so they had to send it again (after yet another phone call from me). Anyway, one thing that's come out of this is that if you want anything useful done by Page & Moy, ignore Lynne Carter (she's just soooo busy, dahlings, that she can't speak to anything so lowly as an actual customer) and try to get to a lady called Lynne Barker who is nice, efficient and can also do Maths. Must be a rare thing in her office ... Why isn't Lynne B the manager?...

Book News:

I'm pleased to say that The Hit List found itself at No 36 in the Amazon Kindle charts, and Tommy's Blind Date was at No 69 in the same charts, though it's flagging now, ho ho.

My mood was also much cheered by the news that The Girl in the Painting is proving to be an ongoing bestseller for Untreed Reads, and so I must write more literary lesbian short stories in the future, I see. I already have an idea for one, so watch this space ...

And, not to be outdone, I've reached the 90,000 word marker, with much kicking and squealing, in The Executioner's Cane so am now well into that final third. I fear a hell of a lot of editing will need to take place when the first draft is done though. As ever! Meanwhile, I've reviewed P G Wodehouse's The Girl in Blue for Vulpes Libris today, so click through for your essential fix of foppish charm and wit. You know you want to!

Anne Brooke

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Houses, holidays and haikus

Life News:

We've been round a couple of new developments looking at potential new houses today, which has been great fun. We liked one of the houses in the development nearest to Guildford town centre, but we much preferred the ones a little further out. The one we were most interested in won't be built till next year, so we're hoping to do a proper site visit over the next couple of weeks to get a feel for the thing. It will be interesting anyway. In the meantime, we've drafted an official complaint to Mann Countrywide - though I do have to say that the two women in the office, Kirsty & Leigh, were absolutely lovely when I collected my key from them on Saturday, and they apologised profusely and genuinely on behalf of their new manager, who's apparently very appalling to everyone. They also gave me complaint information and encouraged us to go ahead, which was interesting indeed. We're also getting two more estate agents to visit us tomorrow to give us quotes, so we're still keeping all our options open. No harm in doing that for sure.

After all this house consideration, K and I decided to take a quick trip to Wisley for lunch, which was lovely and warm, hurrah. At least inside anyway. Not many people there because of the weather, so it was nice to wander around and have lots of space - though you didn't want to dawdle or one's legs tended to freeze up. In spite of the fact that I was wearing thermals, two pairs of socks, two tee-shirts, a jumper, a fleece and an overcoat. Good Lord, it was astonishing I could move at all really. They were also having a free tree giveaway event, so we have come away with a silver birch sapling. Yes, I know this is ridiculous as we (as yet) have no garden and the beasts grow to about 200 feet tall or something, but how could we resist? We have therefore put it in a pot and put it on the stairs, where it is making a fair bid for the "smallest and spindliest Christmas tree ever" competition. Anyone got a really really small fairy??...

Yesterday, the start of our week's holiday (not going anywhere but having days out and considering house issues, theoretically) got off to a bad beginning as poor K had to work all day sorting out the new phone system at the office. So he left at 8.15am, returned exhausted at 7.45pm and then had to go back to the office as he'd got all the way home and realised he'd left his briefcase in the carpark. Lordy, we were worried, but thank God nothing had happened to it and everything was safe (thank you, thank you - miracles can indeed happen!!), and he got back again at 8.45pm. What a nightmare anyway. And he has to be in work tomorrow too to check the new phone system works so in actual fact our holiday won't start till Tuesday, poor thing. Ah well.

During the latter half of the week, Marian and I played a very cold game of golf, but there was no-one else out there it was so cold, so that was fun too. There was even ice on the tee area so you had to be jolly careful about your swing. As it were. Though, bearing in mind I was as bundled up as I was today, it wasn't much of a swing in the first place. Ooh and on the way back from Guildford later that day, I came upon two young men walking along the central reservation of the A3. The fools!!!! When I got back home, I rang the police so they could check it out and stop them, so I feel I've done my civic duty for the month. But why the hell anyone would walk along the central reservation of the A3 and expect to live long is beyond me ... Men are a mystery, my dears, a complete mystery.

Book News:

I was pleased with this 4-star review on Amazon for gay short story, Give and Take, and even more pleased that Vulpes Libris has been mentioned this weekend in The Guardian as a "top UK literary blog". Now that's class ... We Book Foxes are all smiling hugely indeed.

This week's meditations are:

Meditation 469
The secrets women keep:
hidden in the shadows
and the rooms
where nobody goes,

a flicker at the edge
of an eye, a mystery,
dark corners of life
only a woman knows.

Meditation 470
The temple waits
for destruction

as priests wait
for death,

knowing their completion
lies only in absence.

The Sunday haiku is:

Two mistle thrushes
fill the empty tree with song:
winter symphony.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A rollercoaster week

Life News:

Lordy, what a week. Some of it has been really, really nasty and some of it really nice. First off, we have sacked our estate agents, Mann Countrywide in Godalming. They deceived us in terms of not honouring their marketing promises, ie they didn't give us the formal weekly report during the four weeks we've been with them, and they don't, contrary to the brochure, pick you up for any viewings you arrange through them, in case you're wondering what those promises might have been. In addition they lied twice about putting our property in the Surrey Advertiser. When we complained about this, they didn't respond adequately, and apparently there's been a huge staff change-round between offices, and they have a new manager, James. Frankly, however, that's not our problem and we don't much care. We sent an official complaint last Friday, asking for the name of their Ombudsman. They ignored it. James rang on Saturday, apparently about something else, and we complained again. He asked for the email which he allegedly hadn't received and we sent it again. We made an arrangement for him to visit us last night with an explanation and details of who to complain to.

Last night, James arrived late, but not dishonourably so. I didn't offer him any drink, as I didn't want to. Why waste good coffee? He started to give a lot of marketing spiel about how it wasn't his fault and there'd been staff changes, but I stopped him saying I didn't want to hear any gubbins and he needed to get straight to the point. He didn't much like that. Tough. Interestingly he'd brought the last week's formal report for us to view - ie the only one we've ever seen. It was incorrect - it said that our flat had been in last week's Surrey Advertiser (it hadn't) and it said it had also been in this week's. How he knows that is anyone's guess as the Surrey Advertiser doesn't come out till tomorrow. I pointed out the factual errors. He began to bluster, again saying it wasn't his fault. He then accused me of lying about it not being in the Surrey Advertiser last week and asked if I'd apologise to him when I found out I was wrong. Understandably, neither I nor K took kindly to that. I don't appreciate being called a liar in my own home, or indeed anywhere else. He repeated his view that he was new in the role and it wasn't his fault. K pointed out that our first complaint had been sent on Friday (and ignored) and Friday was the start of his managerial watch at the firm, and he should therefore learn how to take responsibility, without excuses.

We repeated (for the third time of asking) our request that he provide us with the details of the property ombudsman so we could make an official complaint about Mann's actions. He refused to do so. We pointed out that, for all intents and purposes, our contract with Mann was over forthwith, as they had lied to us on at least two occasions and had not fulfilled their side of the contract. He refused to accept that, saying that we had signed a 10-week contract and we were therefore breaking it. The argument went on until he finally agreed that today (Thursday) he would send us an email by 12noon bringing the contract to an end. All the time, he was continuing to bluster and make excuses (not great customer service then ...), but when we'd agreed the contract was over, I asked him to leave and said we had no wish to have any further dealings with him. He left, slamming the door. Good manager then, um not ... Luckily the door appears unharmed, as otherwise we would have been adding the cost of any repair to our complaint also.

This morning, at 11.15am, James sends us a very high-handed email saying that he has decided to bring our contract to an end. So, the sad man, he still hasn't realised he's already broken it, and it's our decision to end it, and not his. And he still hasn't given us the details of who to complain to, even though it must be at least for the 6th time of asking. He can't be very good at (a) reading or (b) listening then ... However, the good news is that my lovely FB friends (thank you!) have sent me the link to the Property Ombudsman so I suspect I may well be forwarding those to James, as he obviously hasn't a clue who they are ... I also suspect he's going to find out pretty soon.

Meanwhile, the difficulties I've been having with AXA PPP and the Guildford Clinic - who basically seem to be using me as a go-between for their own financial disputes (not a great place for a patient to be in) - has gone some way to being resolved. I tweeted earlier in the week about how bad they were, and some Twitter AXA person got hold of it and has been sorting it out. Which just goes to show that the Internet does work, on occasion. The upshot is that they are going to pay the Guildford Clinic in spite of telling the Clinic they weren't (which resulted in my consultant's office sending me a very upsetting letter that I did not appreciate in any way), partly because they have on the phone twice promised me that they would pay the claim. Now it transpires that they're doing it ex-gratia, and will not cover me for similar necessary consultations again, as they say I have no symptoms. Bollocks, say I. As the medical profession has already noted, my symptoms are depression, hormonal imbalances and endometriosis - I'm not sure how any of them aren't a symptom, so I am distinctly not happy about how AXA are interpreting the rules, and I don't accept it. Watch this space ... I must say K's previous medical insurers were a million times better and far more pleasant to deal with than this. I only wish his firm hadn't changed them.

Anyway, seeing as I'm in the middle of getting rid of the rubbish in my life, I have terminated my MySpace account, as MySpace is now so dull as to be virtually comatose. Yawn. It's a relief to be rid of it. But, really, no wonder I'm back on the gin ...

And, tonight, K and I are off to the theatre to see Richard III, so am hoping for dark drama and angst. Hell, it's what I'm used to here in the twilight zone. But I bet bloody Richard hasn't had the bloody week I've had - his life is a walk in the park compared to mine!...

Book News:

Ooh look, we've got to the 'something nice' section, hurrah! I was thrilled to hear that the reason that the edits for The Gifting have apparently been a little delayed (though to be honest I hadn't even noticed) was that the editor was enjoying the story too much. Gosh! Glorious words for a writer to hear, I can tell you. Also, the lovely people at Bluewood Publishing have accepted my lyrical short story, Dido's Tale, for publication so I have been busy signing the contract and thinking about blurbs and cover art today. What fun!

Other excitements are that there's a one-day Thanksgiving sale on FRIDAY 26th at Untreed Reads so don't forget to pick up a bargain or two there tomorrow. And for November only there's 20% off the first 2 orders at Dreamspinner Press with the code HolidayDreams, so go on - make this stressed-out and potentially homeless writer's weekend a happier one. You know you want to ...

Meanwhile, at Vulpes Libris, you can read my review of Barbara Pym's A Glass of Blessings, which is a beautifully understated novel of quietness and kindness. Which I really could have done with this week - note to self: must read more Pym ... Anyway, I can very much recommend the read.

This week's meditations are:

Meditation 466
Murder being once done,
you may as well
make a strange habit of it

ensuring that in all journeys
you’ll at least
get a seat in the carriage.

Meditation 467

Beneath apparent love,
instead of silence or prayer
the politics of destruction appear

so sword and fire,
blood and weeping
dwell here.

Meditation 468

It all boils down
to the politics of land:
who possesses it
and who doesn’t.

Nobody imagines
that the skies,
the earth, the air
might actually be God’s.

Anne Brooke

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Houses, estate agents and royalties

Life News:

Well, enough is enough. Last week our agent at Mann Countrywide promised us that this week our flat would be in the Surrey Advertiser, and it wasn't. They also promised us at the beginning of our agreement that we'd get a weekly report on a Friday as to how things have been going and what their marketing plans are. We haven't received any of these, except for the one time I phoned up and chased them, and then it was an informal chat rather than an official report. Moreover, we are now just about to enter the 5th week of our 10 week agreement and not a single viewer have we seen. So on Friday night, we sent an official complaint to them, and gave notice of our intent not to renew with them at the end of our 10 weeks. We also said that we wished to terminate them as soon as possible, bearing in mind the appalling and deceitful way we've been treated.

First thing Saturday morning, the Godalming branch manager is on the phone. He left a message, but we decided there was no obligation to ring him back until later, so we left it till 4.30pm. Hell, why should we jump when they tell us to, eh? They don't bother much with us. When K finally spoke to him, said branch manager was grovelling with apologies once K, in no uncertain terms, told him we'd been lied to and misled from day one, so we still wished to terminate our agreement asap. Good. He should be even more grovelling with apologies, and compensation, as far as we're concerned. It also appears that our original agent, Kimberley, is mysteriously no longer working at the Godalming office, plus another agent from there is also no more, and this branch manager is apparently new in this week, so it looks as if something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark as far as Mann Countrywide Godalming are concerned.

Still, that is none of our concern, to be honest. I, frankly, don't much care for their problems. Out of the kindness of our hearts, we have agreed that the branch manager will visit us on Wednesday evening with a full explanation of what's going on, and we shall consider his report at that time. Our preferred option is to sack them immediately, unless he comes up with a hugely good reason why we shouldn't, and to appoint another agent. The fact of the matter is, however, that this tale of woe and estate agent inadequacy has cost us a month of buying time and I am very inclined to make them pay for it. Especially as the new agent we may (and probably will) appoint will be fighting with the approaching Christmas lull. Suffice it to say we are not at all happy, and I absolutely hate our time being wasted.

In the meantime, we are now seriously considering new-build home options, and part-exchange facilities. We saw a perfectly lovely new estate in Chobham on Saturday and are keeping that under close consideration - they have our details and we'll see what offer they can come up with. In addition I have today enquired about another new-build estate in Merrow, Guildford which is due for completion in Spring 2011. If those come up trumps first, then that is what we will do. Let Mann Countrywide put that in their pipe and smoke it ...

It's not all house doom and gloom though, thank God. Earlier in the week, the gas man visited for our annual boiler service - which they do always love as our boiler here is apparently a collectible and, even though it doesn't entirely conform to current boiler regulations, it's all perfectly safe and will probably outlast us, and the two generations that come after. Ah, they don't make 'em like that now, you know ...

Book News:

I've been delighted with the royalties this quarter from Untreed Reads Publishing, where sales of The Girl in the Painting have been particularly buoyant, so that's a nice boost amidst all the angst of life etc. I was also happy to receive the fully signed contract for Rosie by Name back from Bluewood Publishing, so that's something to look forward to next year.

Only one meditation this week:

Meditation 465
Travelling to pay
your last respects
to the dead

can, on occasion,
be fraught with difficulty,
danger and dread.

And the Sunday haiku is:

The creamy-cloud foam
in my coffee and my bath
is my secret bliss.

Anne Brooke

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Haircuts and hospitals

Life News:

Great news! Someone at work actually noticed my new haircut! Gosh indeedy. So a big thank you to Andrea, and also to Carol, for commenting on it - positively of course - and without having read my blog too. I'm still smiling.

This week I've also had my appointment with the lovely specialist (hello, Alli!) who has been reading my blog and therefore commented on my wonderful new haircut - not sure whether that might have been cheating or not, now I come to think of it, but thank you anyway! Health-wise, I'm much happier than I was a couple of weeks ago, so we've decided to keep off the HRT for the moment and see how things progress between now and when I next see her in February. It makes sense, but I'll keep an eye on it to see if I suddenly plunge into the slough of despond again. You never know really. They also took a blood test to see how my oestrogen levels are doing, post-HRT, so that will be interesting to find out too. Never say the middle years of a woman's life are not exciting, eh ...

In the meantime, I've been struggling with estate agents, again. There are still zilch viewers for our poor unloved flat, which continues to be hugely frustrating, but we've decided to go and see three houses this Saturday anyway, just to keep our hand in. Interestingly, one of them in Woking is on the market at a price we could actually afford without even having to sell our flat, which is certainly food for thought. I do like the look of it as well, but we'll see. The thing that really got my back up, however, is the fact that when I rang up to arrange a viewing for one of the other houses with an agent new to us, the extremely callow young man was very rude when he found out our flat was on with Mann Countrywide. What is it about callow young male estate agents (well, apart from the evident lack of brains, that is)??? Don't they have any concept at all of professionalism??? I am therefore extremely proud of myself that I stopped his boring sales spiel and bitchiness in mid-flow, and told him in no uncertain terms not to be so rude about his fellow professionals as I thought it was frankly appalling. (Say what you like about Mann Countrywide but they have never at any time been rude or bitchy about other estate agents, at least not in my hearing, and that is something I do admire, whether or not they know how to get viewers for us ...). Said Callow Young Man's response to that was weak laughter, which I didn't take kindly to either, so I told him I wasn't interested in his opinions, but I simply wanted him to arrange an appointment and confirm it with me without more ado. The loser ... The good thing is that CYM isn't available on Saturday, so a colleague will show us round. Thank God for that, really. I hope the colleague is more pleasant, but I don't hold out much hope. But good to know that being a stroppy-minded woman in her forties has some benefits - I would never have dared express an opinion such as that in my twenties, more fool me.

Anyway, tonight, K and I are off to the theatre in Woking to see House of Ghosts, which is a play featuring Inspector Morse, so it should be interesting for sure.

Book News:

I'm happy to say that A Dangerous Man gained a lovely 5-star review on Amazon, so many thanks, Amos, for that. The novel is now also available at The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery, so that's good to know. It's even got a sales ranking there too, which is heartening.

This week's meditations are:

Meditation 462
A wild ride,
vain hope of escape
and certain knowledge
of death

reveals to us all
how this need to live
drives us onward
until the last frail breath.

Meditation 463
I’ve always liked Jezebel:
the way she puts on
her eyeshadow
and arranges her hair

before a bloody,
undignified death
is, I feel, a lesson
for all women, everywhere.

Meditation 464
Call me too delicate
for the world we live in
but the concept
of seventy dead men’s heads
lined up in baskets
really doesn’t suit me
as an appetiser.

Really, they were a funny old lot in the Old Testament ...

Anne Brooke

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rhubarb and remembrance

Book News:

I'm very pleased to say that my poem, Meditation 21, appears in the Winter 2010 issue of Eat a Peach poetry journal today (scroll down to view), and of course can also be found amongst its friends in my poetry collection, Salt and Gold, which is now available at a discount at Lulu Books. Ideal Christmas present for your poetic and/or religious friends, naturally ... And speaking of wintry gifts, this time ideal for the darker and more sinister Christmas (and really what could be nicer?), don't forget that crime novel, Thorn in the Flesh, continues to be eligible for free delivery at Amazon and comes with some very nice reviews too.

On a very different note, Tommy's Blind Date was strutting its stuff at No 31 in the Amazon charts, though has now slipped somewhat. And I was also pleased to see my latest poetry collection, Sunday Haiku hanging on in there in the Amazon poetry charts. Returning briefly to Lulu Books, I'm happy to announce that all my books at Lulu now have very worthwhile discounts and some are even free, so definitely worth a browse!

And a big thank you to Stephanie for her 5-star review at Goodreads of The Hit List - many thanks, Stephanie.

This week's meditations:

Meditation 460
A shadowy room,
the faint glitter of skin
and the subtle flow
of oil

bring a blessing
he will remember
when the celebrations
and plots begin.

Meditation 461
God is like
a man in a watchtower
waiting for your arrival;

he is like
a horseman galloping
to find you

in the fields of Naboth;
a messenger who refuses
to leave your side

once the words
are spoken; he is
an arrow through your heart.

Sunday haiku:

I search for my word
lurking at the edge, eerie
and dark: discontent.

Life News:

I must say that Tesco's rhubarb crumble cake, though bizarrely named and yes it doesn't look like much, is seriously scrummy with one's essential cup of tea - highly recommended. Rush out and buy some is what I say. Anyway, in between the rain (honestly, where does it all come from?...) I have managed to squeeze in a game of golf with Marian - not my best game, but my putting was pretty damn cool and on the first I actually chipped in from the green, hurrah. Who needs a putter? Just call me Smug. Marian did.

Saturday morning, Lynda came to shape up my hair which now looks lovely, though I say it myself and shouldn't - and this morning I've even managed to get it looking like some faint echo of how Lynda does it, though I'm unlikely to do that again, wash-and-go being my main aim in life. K is primed to say how lovely it looks as soon as Lynda leaves - much like Pavlov's Husband, if Pavlov had a husband. Which is a good thing as I think I can count on the fingers of half a hand the times in my life when anyone has actually noticed I've had a haircut - a sad fact of life that does make me a bit snippety as I try to make sure I do comment on everyone else's haircuts if I think they've been done. Positively of course! Despite what you think, my Bitch Quota is quite low really. Anyway, I must wear some kind of invisibility cloak over my head for the week after The Haircut, but I swear I don't know who puts it there. Ah well.

Yesterday, we were at the Cathedral listening to Guildford Choral Society (nice singing, Robin, Gavin & Liz - well done, all!) perform not one but two requiems. The Faure one and the Durufle one (sorry, no idea about how to get accents on either of those). A great performance, even though I'm not a huge fan of the requiem per se, and think that when you've encountered one you've probably encountered them all. Much like Madonna and Child paintings, really. And even K thinks two requiems might have been a requiem too far. The programme for next year looks more my style though, so I shall look forward to that.

This morning, K and I have of course attended the Remembrance Service at Shackleford. I particularly like their take on this as when we're all standing around the War Memorial in the village, the names of those from the village who died in the First World and Second World Wars are read out and people come and place crosses on with the appropriate name in the soil as they're being read. I do find that very moving and it brings it all home really. This time we also didn't get a sermon but instead one of our congregation told us the story of his father who'd been in the army and spent five years as a prisoner of war in Germany during the Second World War - fascinating stuff. As the senior officer in the camp, he'd been in charge of coordinating the escape plans, and also of getting essential information back to the UK government by means of a series of letters supposedly to the Tiptree Jam Factory (near where I grew up, coincidentally) and in code. He was rescued by the Americans at the end of the war, as he wasn't allowed to escape himself as he was too useful to the British government where he was. Which just goes to show  another side of the war, and I was gripped by it. Great stuff.

Meanwhile, at home, the neighbour's chimney isn't quite finished yet, and has suffered something of a setback - the foolhardy builders rested one side of the scaffolding on the kitchen roof instead of on the ground (the fools! The fools!) and it's now caused damage to the roof and broken the glass in the window, dammit. Gisela and I were running around trying to contact said builders this weekend to get it sorted, but luckily they came round yesterday and the scaffolding is now resting on the ground. Where it should have been in the first place - this is a Victorian property after all! It's not made to support scaffolding ...

Finally, on a happier note, I'm thrilled to see the good news that those Somali pirates have finally let the Chandlers go - double hurrahs and thank God for it! They've certainly been on my mind for the past year and I'm glad they're free now. Great news for us all.

Anne Brooke